Joyce Johnson was born in 1935 in New York City, the setting for all her fiction: Come and Join the Dance, recognized as the first Beat novel by a woman writer, Bad Connections, and In the Night Café. She is best known for her memoir Minor Characters, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1983 and dealt with coming of age in the 1950s and with her involvement with Jack Kerouac. She has published two other Beat-related books: Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, and The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac. She has also written a second memoir, Missing Men, and the nonfiction title What Lisa Knew: The Truths and Lies of the Steinberg Case.
The daring debut of the Beat Generation's first woman novelist
It's 1955. Seven days before her graduation from Barnard College, Susan Levitt asks herself, "What if you lived your entire life without urgency?" just before going out to make things happen to her that will shatter the mask of conformity concealing her feelings of alienation. If Susan continues to be "good," marriage and security await her. But her hunger is rising for the self-discovery that comes from existential freedom.
After breaking up with the Columbia boy she knows she could marry, Susan seeks out those she considers "outlaws": the brave and fragile Kay, who has moved into a rundown hotel, in order to "see more than fifty percent when I walk down the street"; the vulnerable adolescent rebel Anthony; and Peter, the restless hipster graduate student who has become the object of Kay's unrequited devotion.
This fascinating novel-which the author began writing a year before her encounter with Jack Kerouac-is a young woman's complex response to the liberating messages of the Beat Generation. In a subversive feminist move, Johnson gives her heroine all the freedom the male Beat writers reserved for men to travel her own road.